The Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) and the Danish Arts Foundation (DAF) have selected Soil Lab as the winning project of a DAF Open Call for a major new commission in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. Responding to the biennial’s 2021 edition theme The Available City, led by Artistic Director David Brown, the proposal, chosen to represent Denmark at the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial, was imagined by an international design team that includes Eibhlín Ní Chathasaigh (Dublin), James Albert Martin (Dublin), Anne Dorthe Vester (Copenhagen), Maria Bruun (Copenhagen) and Chicago residents.
Building on ongoing efforts across Chicago to transform vacant lots into community assets to create a new, shared space with and for residents of North Lawndale, Soil Lab was selected as the winning project for the Danish Arts Foundation’s new commission. Including workshops and built elements grounded in bricks, a material with significance to both the Chicago and the Danish architectural vernacular, the intervention is located in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. Moreover, the project represents a global collaboration, between cultures and between disciplines, reflecting the DAF’s mission to highlight Danish architecture and design traditions and facilitate conversations about how arts and design can shape communities.
Chicago continues to be a world-renowned city whose residents dream big and remain resilient in the face of both physical and social challenges. This commission is an exciting opportunity to highlight this reputation while also using design as a strategy to transform and beautify underused, vacant spaces in our city. I want to thank the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Soil Lab team, and the Danish Arts Foundation for a commission that encourages Chicagoans to learn and grow through the use of art. -- Lori E. Lightfoot, Chicago Mayor.
Charting new, impactful uses for design and architecture, 2021 CAB Artistic Director David Brown explains that the winning project takes a close look at materials and systems of building to shape a new kind of gathering space that directly responds to the theme of The Available City. In fact, the site-specific intervention, The Soil Lab project, involves two main efforts: the making of structures out of bricks, rammed earth, and ceramic tiles; and the construction of spaces for communal gathering.
Inspired by the work of Jens Jensen, a Danish-American landscape architect who believed in the importance of reconnecting with oneself and one’s community through nature and natural materials, the winning proposal will start with a series of virtual conversations with North Lawndale community groups, including CCA Academy and the Young Men’s Employment Network (YMEN). Over the course of the next seven months, the design will take shape, in collaboration with local residents. Various proposed built elements such as benches, tables, and a gallery wall made from brick will encourage movement, interaction, pause, and conversation. Finally, the project will be activated throughout the 2021 Biennial, which opens in September.
Soil Lab revolves around a workshop in North Lawndale where the community can come together to build from readily available materials: creating fired bricks and unfired rammed earth components through interaction and play. Our hope is that Soil Lab won't just be a meeting point during the Biennial, but that it will allow the community to build new meeting points around their neighborhood long after the event has ended. -- Team behind Soil Lab.
News via the Chicago Architecture Biennial.